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Margaret Nazon creates celestial beadwork from Hubble telescope images

The art of Margaret Nazon blends traditional beadwork with celestial images captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Her work depicts nebulae, constellations and entire galaxies using beadwork on black velvet and canvas.

Margaret Nazon's Milky Way Spiral Galaxy in beadwork on velvet. Photo courtesy of Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

Nazon hails from Tsiigehtchic, a Gwich’in community located at the confluence of the Mackenzie and the Arctic Red rivers.

At the age of nine, she learned to bead from her older sister Emily.

“I was just beading on a loom making little broaches with initials on them, very basic, two or three colours,” she said.

Her work is currently on display in the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and will soon be featured at the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary.

When Nazon was a child, she developed an interest in astronomy.

“The inspiration is my interest in the cosmos. As a child growing up in Tsiigetchic, there was a priest who would show us these constellations,” Nazon told Yellowknifer.

She first decided that images of celestial objects could be rendered using her chosen medium in 2009, when she and her partner Bob Mumford were on the computer.

The two looked at NASA images that held a likeness to beadwork, said Nazon.

“I'm very curious,” she said. “What really blows my mind is the distance. It's hard to grasp.”

On black velvet or canvas, Nazon beads her interpretations of supernovas and other celestial space objects captured by the telescope, which was first launched in 1990 and has since captured images of objects as far as 13.4 billion light-years from Earth, states the NASA website.

Nazon's first image was of the Cat's Eye nebula, located in the Draco constellation.
One of her art pieces on exhibit, Spiral Galaxy, depicts a flat rotating disk with stars, gas and dust. At the centre of the piece, is a caribou bone.

“When I start beading, maybe the colours don't match,” said Nazon, adding that the images themselves are up for interpretation of colour, and bead size.

“I like to experiment. I can do moccasins but I found that very tedious. Once I discovered the Hubble images and had a good look at them, I decided 'this is what I'm going to try beading.' I just got carried away,” she said.

“With regular beading sometimes you have to be very particular about having the same size, and the same colour,” said Nazon.

The images themselves are “mostly gases, and they're floating and moving and changing colours and its hard to capture that particular part,” she said.

Humble about her intricate works, Nazon is “surprised” her art will be featured at the Glenbow.

“I am becoming the reluctant artist,” she said. “I was very flabbergasted because I don't consider myself an artist. Beadwork was just something I did to pass time.”

In Yellowknife this week, Nazon held a special development workshop for beaders. Today, she will give school children a tour of the exhibit, and meet with youth to teach them how to build their own celestial images.

“I'm not young, so I want to teach so that someone can carry on,” she said. “I'm meeting with the little kids, the tiny little ones and we'll get them to build their own milky way.”

Nazon will be giving a presentation to the public at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre on Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Beaded Universe exhibit will be on display at the centre until the end of May.